Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hellish day, the facts of it, though it's over now - don't worry, things are okay - and D and I in our respective ways managed to do what needed to be done.

I was still fast asleep, but D started his day encountering in the kitchen evidence that a rat or rats had been marauding under the kitchen sink, trying unsuccessfully to eat through a thick plastic bin containing dry cat food, having better luck getting into a bag of organic potting soil. I hadn't blogged about this – it was just too revolting at the time - but one day last week I glanced out the kitchen window at the bird feeders - and was horrified to see two brown rats - no, not squirrels - rats, with their unmistakable skinny tails and rat faces - devouring sunflower seed from the hanging feeder. A truly surreal scene - me staring at them in disbelief, and they noticing me and at first insolently disregarding me until I rapped the window and they scurried down the skinny metal pole... at the time D said - scary that they could climb the pole in the first place - yes, it was, they seemed to have had no problem....

Our next door neighbor has off & on had a problem with rats, and enlisted D's help in setting baited traps, which resolved it. Another neighbor has recently been redoing an outbuilding on his property. I wonder if that may have disturbed a colony, and sent some over here. In any event, D has gone into the basement since with neighbor's leftover traps, to try to address our problem.

I'm horrified, but slightly less so since we’re in a semirural area. If I were still in Brooklyn - I'd be beside myself with disgust and panic. Although, come to think of it, I did once live in a studio apartment in Boerum Hill - that turned out to have a rat problem - to think that I had actually cohabited without my knowing - well, good thing I didn't know, I might have run out naked in the street had I confronted one - no wonder each of the neighbors in that building had cats.

Disaster of the Day #2 (there were three today) - D discovered, on so far the very coldest day of the season, something like 4 degrees in Albany at dawn - that the motor of the pellet stove in the solarium, that nominally heats most of the downstairs, had given out once & for all. (All my tropical plants!!) He's replaced the motor, quite expensively, a couple of times in the past several years, and it keeps burning out, and he can usually manage a bandaid fix (though timeconsuming for him) to give it more life - but today D had finally had it, it wasn't worth his time to futz with it, it was too frigid out - he ran out to the fireplace-supply store that blessedly was already open in the eight o'clock hour. D returned triumphantly with a new motor (but $250 lighter), noting that he had been convinced that the previous motors had an inherent design flaw - essentially burning themselves up - since this new one came with some sort of "heat protection shield."

The third of "bad things come in threes..."

We knew Penelope (the cat) has been ailing, something's been bothering her for a while now. We let it go - for too long as it turned out. At first it was just little things... she wasn't cleaning herself properly... she drooled... she was just about glued to being by the pellet stove for warmth... occasionally she'd squawk at her food and leap away from it. I figured she might have an abscessed tooth, perhaps -- no small thing, think how painful that is for us -- but she'd eat... and then the last couple of weeks too it was the holiday season, with its distractions - not that we were so distracted by the holidays, but I can't say that I was all that focused on Penelope. I figured - it's cold - let her hang out by the stove.

I don't know. I was neglectful, I think - I know - looking back on it. We should have brought her in way sooner.

She took a turn for the way worse the last couple of days, resting deep in a comfy corner of a bedroom closet. But D noticed that her breathing was labored, her discharge darker...

I took her across the river to the vet, sat for an hour in a waiting room filled with miscellaneous owners and their pets - chocolate labs, a golden lab, a Chihuahua, a German shepherd, and two or three cats, including Penelope, squawking plaintively the whole time.

Eventually Penelope's name was called and I took her into an examining room. The vet came in (it's such a nice practice by the way, I really like both vets there, and all their staff). I described Penelope's symptoms as best I could, how she's been deteriorating over the past several weeks. The vet took notes, palpated her, took her temperature. Not good.

Bottom line is - I ended up, after a few minutes of discussion and some gingerly back & forth as to possible options, saying to him very firmly, "Doctor - I've made my decision. If the prognosis is poor - I would prefer that she be put down." And so the vet and his assistant left the room to coordinate a bit of legal paperwork, and I remained in the examination room with poor mangy Penelope who's very trusting of me, and having to say goodbye to her. The vet & assistant came back in, I signed where I needed to sign, and the vet invited me to stay for the injection - "would we be so lucky to go out this way," as he put it - "indeed" was my response.

No, I left, and called D from the freezing hilltop parking drive and told him the news - that I had made the executive decision...

I feel bad for Penelope. I feel a little guilty that we/I didn't attend to her ailments, bring her to the vet sooner. Her condition was much more severe than I had realized - but perhaps I should have realized. For example -- she had virtually no teeth left. Now that seems like something shocking & radical that one might have noticed - that perhaps one of us might have noticed... but it's not as though Penelope ever let us examine her so closely, and we respected her space...

Terrible. Enlarged kidney? As the vet discovered, palpating. No, I can't blame myself for not having noticed that. Her weight loss - yes, I had noticed - but too late.

We don't even know what her ailment was -- clearly it was a systemic bodily failure - it would have taken costly tests to determine the cause or causes. The vet mentioned the word "cancer" as a possibility.

Anyway, so that's that. No more Miss P. I felt strange at the vets. I saw more than one tearful pet owner arrive with a beloved pet about to be put down. I mentioned to D later – that it seemed like an awful lot (compared to what I’ve seen other times before) were there to meet their end today - "Wednesday is their 'procedures' day," D said. Oh - so that explains it. But the demise of Miss P was a surprise to everyone - me, and vet clinic alike.

I feel sad, but in a frozen, philosophical kind of way. At the vets I felt that I was coming across almost as callous - I mean, I didn't feel callous, or maybe I did. The vet was trying to gauge me, make sure that I was okay with the decision I was making. I wasn't being flip, not in the slightest, when I said - "look, I found her in a parking lot a couple of years ago - easy come, easy go."

I didn't pay the extra $30 to get her ashes...

I figure that money, one day, can go towards a new kitten - or abandoned older cat - that needs a home, and finds quite a very happy cat-friendly one here with us.

So - poor Miss P. She had a hard life. The vet's assistant asked me - how old was she? And I said - I have no idea - I'd found her in a parking lot.

So she had a prehistory.
And a brief time with us, that wasn't so smooth - the dynamics with the other cats didn't work smoothly -

and so it's very quiet up here in the aerie right now
Gwynnie & Claire are hanging out by me
snoozing, one on a blanket by my desk
the other on the wide stair railing

It's going to be just us for the time being now
It's a good group - what we all can handle

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